The famous film composer John Williams and the celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma have recorded a new album – with a lot of the well-known.
Two great artists who have found each other: John Williams (90), Oscar-winning film composer who wrote the music for Hollywood blockbusters like “Star Wars”, “Jaws” or “Schindler’s List” – and Yo-Yo Ma (66), virtuoso cellist, multiple Grammy winner and recipient of the Praemium Imperiale, the world’s most important art prize.
The two have been working together for decades, and more than that, a friendship. “A Gathering Of Friends” is the name of their new album, “a meeting among friends”.
The 90-year-old John Williams – with his album “The Berlin Concert” recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic, currently number one in the German classical music charts – doesn’t seem to get tired of his work. For the new album he has reworked his Cello Concerto, which he had already composed for Ma in 1994. Melancholic solo passages alternate with effervescent orchestral sounds that let the film composer feel. Williams himself conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Ma notes in the press release that the new version includes “major changes, structural changes,” with an ending that is “one glorious song that keeps spinning and spinning and spinning to the end.”
Williams composed the second concert piece “Highwood’s Ghost” in 2018 on the occasion of the 100th birthday of the legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. The solo harpist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Jessica Zhou, also plays a role here and conjures up almost mystical sounds.
Also featured on A Gathering Of Friends are new arrangements made by John Williams for Yo-Yo Ma of three tracks from his Academy Award-winning score for Schindler’s List. The famous, timelessly touching motifs show the full mastery of both Williams and Ma, who has just received the Birgit Nilsson Prize, one of the most valuable awards for classical music, for “his mastery, his passion and his dedication to music”. music, was honored. “When I first played John Williams’ “Theme” from “Schindler’s List,” it brought me into an emotional space I couldn’t escape,” the cellist wrote in a tweet.
The album includes another arrangement for cello and strings of “With Malice Toward None” from Williams’ music for the 2012 film “Lincoln”. It closes with a duo arrangement for Ma and guitarist Pablo Sáinz-Villegas from “A Prayer For Peace» from the 2005 film «München». All three soundtracks are part of John Williams’ longstanding partnership with director Steven Spielberg.
Williams and Ma met about four decades ago, when Williams became conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra and Ma was just beginning his solo career. The only joint album to date was released in 2001. One of the highlights of their long collaboration: the inauguration of US President Barack Obama in 2008.
From the very first meeting – according to the press release – everyone recognized the understanding in the other that, as Williams put it, “music is our oxygen”. “A Gathering Of Friends” doesn’t really offer much that is new, but for fans it shows the composer’s entire range and a cross-section of his tireless work.